The Takeaway Message:
State representatives and residents are gearing up to prepare for how climate change will impact the state’s coastlines, agriculture and important natural habitats.
What’s going on?
Florida’s first chief science officer, Thomas Frazer, called for the cutback of carbon emissions to reduce the effects of climate change, bringing forth a message that’s been absent from Florida’s executive branch for more than a decade.
“Ultimately we’re going to have to reduce carbon emissions to reduce warming and its effects,” Frazer told the Tallahassee Democrat.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency has endorsed a new type of crop insurance coverage that would help farmers recoup their losses when hurricane-force winds batter their harvests.
Tangible efforts to buckle down on shoreline protections are also already underway throughout the state. A “living shoreline” is projected to cover the Apalachicola Bay within the next four years. This will establish a marsh community that stabilizes the shoreline while increasing estuarine habitat.
On the other side of the state, an $8 billion coastal resiliency project will line Miami-Dade coastlines with 10- to 13-foot-high walls, create storm surge barriers at rivers and canals, elevate 10,000 homes and flood-proof 7,000 buildings.
Why it matters.
It’s hard to discuss any of our state’s environmental issues without the words “climate change.” Earlier this year, state climatologist David Zierden spoke to an audience at the University of Florida about the tangible impacts Floridians can expect from climate change, including warmer temperatures, changing weather patterns, intense storms and higher seas.
These changes put a strain on our local plants and wildlife. For example, as the climate changes local birds risk losing their habitats and resources. Climate change is also forcing small crustaceans called copepods to find new homes. Because endangered right whales rely on these copepods for food, they are following suit and migrating into heavily trafficked areas where they die from human interferences like boat collisions.
While some species suffer in a changing climate, others flourish — although these select circumstances are in the minority. For example, strong hurricanes that pummel Florida’s coastlines actually benefit mangrove forests by depositing nutrient-rich sediment from the ocean floor onto their soils.
What can I do?
- Collect sea level rise data through “citizen science” flood reporting.
- Find out how many high tide flooding days are predicted in your area.
- Learn more about the steps that can be taken now to help protect coastal ecosystems.
- Read what Florida’s Climate Center has to say about climate change.